Space geeks of the world, UNITE! If all goes well today, the first test flight of the Falcon-9 rocket was to take place at 11amEDT from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Currently, there is a hold due to ‘range conditions’. A second launch window is open at 3pmEDT. Space Exploration Technologies (SPACEX) is owned by Elon Musk, one of the original founders of PayPal and is based in California. This historic launch of the Falcon-9 could begin a new era of private, commercial space travel. The launch can be viewed via live webcast at: http://www.spacex.com/webcast.php

The Falcon-9 is a two-stage rocket about 180 feet in height. The first stage consists of nine Merlin 1-C engines, the second stage has a single Merlin engine. If all goes well today, the Falcon-9 will place into orbit a six-ton capsule known as Dragon about 155 miles above the Earth. The Dragon is a dual purpose spacecraft, capable of carrying both cargo and human passengers. For today’s test flight, the Dragon is more of a mock-up carrying a dummy payload.

SPACEX recently won a NASA contract worth $1.9 Billion dollars to make 12 cargo flights to the International Space Station (ISS). A Texas-based company, Orbital Sciences Corp, won a $1.6 Billion dollar contract to make eight cargo trips to the ISS. They will be testing their Taurus II rocket next year. Success of today’s 10 minute launch for the Falcon-9 would be to get the Dragon capsule into orbit. However, SPACEX CEO, Elon Musk, says he’ll be satisfied if just the first stage works properly. If everything works, then the Dragon capsule will make several orbits, then splash down off the coast of California. With only two more flights left for NASA’s space shuttles, commercial space companies will be needed to fill in the gap until a replacement system is developed.